Monday, October 29, 2012

BURY ME DEEP by Megan Abbott

A native of suburban Detroit, Megan Abbott has established herself in the past few years as one of the prime writers in the pulp noir genre, and it wasn’t far into her 2009 novel Bury Me Deep that I began to understand why.

Loosely based on the infamous 1931 case of trunk murderess Winnie Ruth Judd, Bury Me Deep weaves the tale of innocent young Marion Seely, left to fend for herself in Phoenix, Arizona while her older husband – a recovering heroin addict - works a punishing job in a Mexican mine. Finding work at a local medical clinic, Marion becomes at first fascinated with - and quickly seduced into - the fast life of vivacious nurse Louise and her tuberculosis-ridden roommate Ginny. Supplementing their meagre income by hosting parties that entertain some of the most powerful local politicians, law enforcers and businessmen, the girls introduce Marion to the smooth Joe Lanigan, a slick but sleazy owner of a chain of pharmacies and budding politician on his way up, who plants his sights on the lonely newcomer. It's a meeting which ignites a chain reaction of events that lead to a grim denouement indeed, and Marion discovering things about herself that she would probably have rather never known.

While the overall plot of Bury Me Deep may at times feel somewhat familiar, being that it plays with a lot of genre conventions, where it really excels is in the quality of Abbott’s prose, which is wonderfully eloquent and detailed. Abbott really brings the era back to pulsating life, describing sights, smells, tastes and sounds that make you feel immersed in the story, and her dialogue rings true to the genre without being forcibly hard-boiled. There is also a great cinematic quality to her writing, and the thought of a screen adaptation provides a tantalising prospect (presuming it is done right, of course – Jessica Biel optioned the screen rights to Abbott’s 2005 novel Die a Little in 2007, but was unable to secure the funding).

Bury Me Deep is the first Megan Abbott book I have had the pleasure of reading. It won’t be the last.

Megan Abbott’s other novels include Die a Little (2005), The Song is You (2007), Queenpin (2007), The End of Everything (2011) and Dare Me (2012).